Mr. Sun’s Hatbox Impressions: Clever, Unapologetically Dumb Fun

Typically, I’d write up a whole analysis of a game’s mechanics, visuals, story, etc. before revealing my grand conclusion — and I’ll still include all that below — but I’m just going to cut to the chase: Play Mr. Sun’s Hatbox.

Its mission-based structure makes for a perfect game to play in short spurts during downtime but its absurdly catchy loop means it’s difficult to put back down again. I’ve only put three and a half hours into the “slapstick roguelite” so far, however, I know I’m going to put so much more time into it in the future.

I wrote a little about the early game in a preview a few months ago. To briefly sum up, I play as a delivery blob whose solemn mission to ensure customer satisfaction goes awry when a group of armed thugs steal Mr. Sun’s package right out of his hands. As an aside, I love that the developer — Kenny Sun — cast himself in this vital role. The scene is as unexpectedly bizarre as it is chuckle-inducing and sets the tone for all my future, very serious endeavors.

A note informing me my demo progress carries over into the full game is another pleasing early surprise. And while the beginning is promising, the game only seems to improve with time. The scope gets more hilariously unbelievable — I make it my goal in life to kidnap, murder, and brainwash my way through castles, farms, sewers, and more, to recapture my stolen delivery and bring it safely back to Mr. Sun.

My first mission is to capture one Mr. Exstential McLaughlin — I kid you not, that’s his name. What that has to do with the pilfered hatbox, I have no idea. From the safety of my secure underground base, which I recently constructed under Mr. Sun’s shop, I check out every detail in my Missions room. Besides this intel headquarters, I also have a storage space in which I can place headgear and weapons picked up during jobs and a staff break room. Because amateur assassins need somewhere to unwind in between jobs.

Building rooms introduces a Fallout Shelter-esque management aspect, giving me a compelling reason to seek out rewarding missions to help expand my operation. Money is always useful for construction costs. Some buildable chambers, like the Research and Expansion rooms, require employees to work around the clock to produce mission-beneficial perks and better facilities. This prompts me to kidnap as many enemies as possible — which I can brainwash and force into service for a fee in my Brig — to squeeze as much labor out of them as possible.

Unfortunately, delivery people make terrible secret agents. My initial level-one workforce includes a blob with a habit of stealing all the mission’s cash, one that gets hurt by healing items, and another whose arms are so underdeveloped that he can’t kill anyone barehanded. These may seem to be frustrating setbacks to gameplay but the weaknesses are humorously implemented and even turn out to be helpful sometimes. For instance, knowing my agent isn’t much of a killer, I race through the first mission, successfully kidnaping the target by tying him to a balloon, and get extra XP for not murdering anyone.

The experience points are tallied at the end of the mission and my recruit grows to level two, losing the quirk which keeps him from snapping necks. Leveling up can also mean getting more health or learning a beneficial trait, like resilience against explosions or regaining health in-mission by eating a corpse. It’s rewarding to see my characters become stronger, drop bad traits, and manifest some useful skills.

However, the game’s roguelite nature means these agents, when killed, permanently die. And, I’m not going to lie, it can be irritating to lose a blob I poured a lot of time into just to get stuck with a useless level one recruit again. But I keep every object I manage to capture in a run. These include hats that hurt opponents, make me stealthier, or help me float as well as weapons like pistols, greatswords, and cartons of eggs. With such a deadly arsenal, it doesn’t take long to raise up a new agent.

Story missions, which culminate in grand Hat Heists, perpetuate the lighthearted cap-thieving. I’ve only nabbed three significant head coverings at this point, but I’m excited to see what the rest bring, besides an amusing cutscene with a confused Mr. Sun. With its special mix of absurdity and engaging gameplay, I’m having a fantastic time with Mr. Sun’s Hatbox.

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